Why Do We Need Plant Factories?
According to a new United Nations report published recently, the current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, with roughly 83 million people being added to the world’s population every year.
More people means the world needs to produce more food, with the fact that nearly 11% of the world’s population struggles with access to food. We will likely need 50% to 70% more food to feed the 9.8 billion people estimated to be on the planet by 2050.
An estimated of 109 hectares of new land (add 20% to the size of Brazil) will be needed to grow sufficient food to feed the population if we use the traditional farming as practice today. However, over 80% of the land that is suitable for growing crops is already in use. Therefore, the only solution to overcome food shortage is to increase the food production per hectare of land.
In addition to increasing world population, climate change is another problem the world is currently facing. Extreme weather such as drought and floods will only bring more devastating impacts to agriculture.
What can be done to avoid this impending disaster?
Plant Factory Is the Answer
A plant factory is the factory that grows plants indoor. These indoor farms could be the key to solving food shortages in the world. Plant factories take what factories do best, which is harnessing technology to efficiently produce a good; and what nature does best, which is producing biomass from light, water and nutrients, and combining the two.
It is the real agricultural industrialisation of the era.
Indoor farming implemented through plant factories has the potential to be the best of both worlds. It could become a viable option in the future, especially in remote or developing countries that suffer from extreme climates that heavily impact their crop growth.
Benefits of Plant Factories
There are many reasons why plant factories are the future of farming to save the planet earth from food shortages. Here, we list some of the key benefits of plant factories.
1. Indoor Farming Under Controlled Conditions
Plant factories are operated in indoor spaces under controlled cultivation conditions such as light, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide concentration and culture solution. Growers can manipulate these conditions all in the plant factories, for optimum plant growth.
2. Growing Plants 365 Days
The ideal conditions in plant factories enable the growing season lasts an astounding 365 days a year. There is no need to worry about the water shortage during drought season or too much rainfall during the rainy season and also typhoons in some countries. Plants still can sit happily in plant factories no matter what the weather condition is. Fresh produce supplies will not be affected too.
Urban farming is the concept that is highly sought after in the recent years. Plant factories are good candidates for local food production in crowded and high-cost urban areas around the world to facilitate fast deliveries of fresh produce.
Plants are grown in stacks or multi-levels instead of barely one level to maximise the space usage. More plants can be produced this way and this technique is far more sustainable and cost-efficient.
4. Plants Are Grown Without Soil
Plants are grown hydroponically where roots are submerged in the nutrient solution. Thus, no water is lost to soil.
Moreover, this allows the plant to uptake its food with very little effort as opposed to soil where the roots must search for the nutrients and extract them. This is true even when using rich, organic soil and top of the line nutrients. The energy expended by the roots in this process is energy better spent on vegetative growth. That is why hydroponic plants are growing at a much faster rate than growing in soil. Thus, harvesting in plant factories are performed far more frequent than in traditional farming.
Another benefit of growing hydroponic plants is no excessive heavy metals will be absorbed by plants compared to growing with soil. There are chances where plants are grown in soil that is polluted with heavy metals in traditional farming.
5. No Pesticides
This is perhaps the issue that most people are concerning about, especially those who see healthy diet as an important aspect in their living. Many of the vegetables grown outdoor using traditional farming are sprayed with pesticides. Plant factories do not use any pesticides, neither organic nor chemical, because plants are grown in an indoor sealed environment that no insects could enter.
Strict rules are often applied to those who enter the plant factories where special attire is required to prevent insects and contaminants from harming the plants. So, plants are living in a safe environment without having to worry about pest attack.
The beauty of plant factories lies partly in its versatility – the controlled spaces and conditions that can be replicated anywhere in the world to address food shortages of the present and future.
Once a certain set of conditions is proven to be workable for some species of plants, the set of conditions could be transferred to plant factories located on the other side of the globe.
Thanks to the controlled environment that plant factories are capable of creating or manipulating, growers in tropical countries are able to grow plant species that are known to be adaptive only in temperate countries, and vice versa.
Now you know why we need plant factories – to overcome food crisis and increase food security. Plant factories will, in fact, they are now playing crucial roles in feeding the increasing world population. Our future generation might be relying on this farming technique to obtain their food. Let’s see.